Military families with members receiving medical care from the Alaska VA Healthcare Hospital in Anchorage have a new place to stay.
This weekend, the Alaska Fisher House joined a network of over 50 facilities operating across the United States and Germany. These comfort homes are a place where military families can stay while a family member is receiving medical treatment. The Alaska Fisher House is located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Ken Fisher, Chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, was at JBER for the dedication ceremony.
“Fisher House offers a home away from home for families of those servicemen, women, or veterans who have been sick or wounded in service to this nation. Lodging at no expense, for as long as the hospital stay warrants.”
Though Friday marked the dedication of the Alaska Fisher House, its doors have been open to military families since December 22nd last year. Since then, at least five families have been able to use the Fisher House. Spreading out to 10,000 square feet to accommodate 12 living-spaces, the average cost of one of these buildings is around 4 million dollars. The price tag for the Alaska home came in a little higher, due to a special feature: heated sidewalks.
“Because the families are too busy going to the hospital to see their loved ones and there’s not a lot of time around to shovel them, so we actually heated the sidewalks to keep the snow from piling up.”
Fisher says the heated sidewalks will also help keep the houses fully accessible for wheelchair-bound servicemen and women.
The Fisher House program was founded in 1990 by Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher, making Ken Fisher the third generation in his family to head up the organization. He says he respects the dedication of servicemen and women, and the sacrifice of military families can sometimes go unrecognized.
“What we seek to do is to honor the sacrifices of military families by easing the burden on them, both economically, and also stress-related, because spiritually, a kind of support system forms in the house. So the families coach each other, they share joy of the good days, they’ll help each other on bad days. So it’s kind of a community within a house.”
Once each house is built, the care and maintenance is given over to the branch of the military that the base belongs to. Fisher attributes the success of the program to a public-private partnership with the government, as well as generosity from the local communities.
“So these public private partnerships, or the kind that we have, I hope is the wave of the future, because there’s always going to be unmet needs. Whether we like it or not, there’s always going to be unmet needs.”
Fisher says the private sector has skills sets and infrastructures in place that can help ease the burden on government, which would go a long way to provide solutions instead of complaints.
“Say, ‘I can do it!’ And you put a mechanism together, and then the government comes in, and do what they can do.”
Six to seven more Fisher houses are in the process construction or will be opening soon.